Georgetown announced the resignation of Pat Henner as director of its men’s and women’s track and field and cross-country teams, as well as self-imposed sanctions against the program, in the wake of two separate investigations launched after allegations of sexual misconduct and racial bias.
A university-led probe found that members of the men’s track team engaged in inappropriate locker room behavior and produced offensive materials relating to unofficial team events in violation of student conduct policies, according to a statement issued by the university Friday afternoon. The other investigation, conducted by the university’s Office of Institutional Diversity Equity and Affirmative Action, concluded there was no evidence of racial bias within the program.
A separate statement issued by the Georgetown athletic department announcing Henner’s resignation said the investigations found no wrongdoing by Henner or his staff. No replacement was named for Henner, who was head coach the past eight years and an assistant the previous eight years.
“I have always demanded the highest athletic and personal standards for my coaches and student-athletes,” Henner said in the athletic department statement. “I regret that some students engaged in behavior that fell short of these expectations. I recognize the university’s need to move forward with a fresh start, and I do not want to be a distraction in that process.”
The university announced the team will not participate in seven meets this upcoming season as part of the sanctions and will undergo mandatory sensitivity training and “dedicated efforts to building an inclusive and respectful team culture.”
In addition, that statement read: “Moving forward, any member of the men’s track team who is found to violate University policies on hazing, harassment, or sexual misconduct will be immediately dismissed from the team and may be subject to further disciplinary action through the Student Code of Conduct. The men’s locker room will be closed to members of the men’s track team until the Director of Athletics has determined that the team culture has successfully changed.”
Evidence of sexual misconduct within the men’s track and field team initially surfaced in late April. Georgetown at the time released a statement acknowledging its inquiries into the track team following those reports and as charges of racial bias gained traction via social media.
A blog post detailed sexual misconduct among members of the men’s team in its locker room, including the Hoyas Snaxa Awards and the “Scavenger Hunt” listing of acts to be performed. The details are similar to those in a five-page complaint July 6 shared with The Washington Post and submitted by a rising junior on the team who was seeking to expedite the pace of the investigation.
The social-media debate continued to escalate with another blog post, this by a rising junior, who recounted the pride she felt upon signing her scholarship offer to run for Georgetown. Stefanie Kurgatt then described how injury and a deteriorating relationship with her coach scuttled her promise.
Kurgatt wrote about feeling marginalized as a sprinter and as a minority, indicating the coaching staff pressured her to run while injured and that a steady stream of negative comments felt like a tactic that was designed to make her quit. She said in a single year, five Georgetown track athletes, herself included, either left or were dropped from the team, all minorities.
Georgetown graduate Chelsea Cox, however, offered a contrasting recollection of her years on the track team than the one Kurgatt, a former teammate, described in her blog post.
“Your story is not my story,” Cox wrote. “My point is not to say that racism doesn’t exist at Georgetown University. I know that it does, I have experienced it. What I certainly know is that racism does not exist in the coaching staff and it is not tolerated by any of the coaches at Georgetown.”